The glaciers of the European Alps could disappear by 2100

The glaciers of the European Alps could disappear by 2100

A supraglacial pond on the Plaine Morte Glacier, the largest glacier in the European Alps.

Credit: Mr. Huss

According to new climate models, the glaciers that cover the European Alps could disappear by 2100 if global warming due to human activity increases significantly over the next decades.

"In a bad case, everything will be gone," Harry Zekollari, a climatologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, told reporters on Tuesday (9 April) at the annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union. (EGU) in Vienna.

Even if humans manage to prevent global warming, glaciers will still lose half of their volume by 2050, Zekollari and his colleagues discovered. The researchers simulated the evolution of nearly 4,000 individual glaciers in the European Alps with a new computer model. Scientists used 2017 as the reference year. The glaciers began with a volume of about 100 cubic kilometers, the equivalent of 40 million Olympic pools. [Time-Lapse Images of Retreating Glaciers]

The researchers examined the evolution of glaciers according to the different global warming scenarios described by the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), known as the United States. name of representative concentration trajectories.

The researchers found that about 95% of the ice would disappear in the worst-case warming scenario, RCP8.5, which predicts that the global temperature average could increase by 8.6 degrees Fahrenheit (4.8 degrees Celsius). Celsius) from here 2100.

It would mean "you just have some ice sheets disconnected at high altitude, but you do not really have any more glaciers," Zekollari said at the press conference.

Even in a more intermediate warming scenario – RCP4.5 – 80% of glacier volume would disappear, with no glaciers below an altitude of about 2,500 meters (8,200 feet), according to the study.

Under a more limited emissions scenario known as RCP2.6 (increase of less than 3.6 ° F or 2 ° C), it would remain about one-third of the current glacier volume in 2100. C & # 39; is Zekollari's "mini good news" said that this report is better than other scenarios, but that its loss is even greater than previously estimated.

Whatever the next global warming scenario in the next few decades, glaciers will be halved by 2050, due to the glaciers' response time, Zekollari said. [See Photos of the Vanishing Glaciers in Europe’s Alps]

"Their appearance in the coming decades is in fact dictated by their current appearance," he said.

The disappearance of glaciers will affect the water supply, the hydropower sector and the tourism sector in the Alps, said Zekollari.

"Unfortunately, the situation in the Alps is characteristic of what happens to mountain glaciers outside the polar regions," Daniel Farinotti, the principal author of the study, told Live Science. Swiss Higher Institute of Technology.

Earlier this year, Farinotti published another study in the journal Nature Geoscience that compiled data on the thickness of ice from more than 200,000 glaciers to obtain a global inventory of ice volume, at the same time. exclusion of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. This study found that the total volume of glaciers in the world is about 160,000 cubic km (about 38,000 cubic miles), about 18% less than previous studies, which means that many glaciers could disappear sooner than expected.

The new findings were published April 9 in the journal The Cryosphere of EGU.

Original article on Science live.

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